Food Friday: Good Friday Edition

Indignity Vol. 4, No. 56

Food Friday: Good Friday Edition
A slice of fiadone, not too bad, would eat

EASTER WEEKEND IS here—a month out of alignment with Passover, this time around, thanks to the Jewish lunar leap year—and for those who celebrate, it's time to remember that the only way to make hard-boiled eggs is in a steamer: 12 minutes, in and out, no banging around in a pot of boiling water to develop cracks in the shell for the dye to seep through. 

For the occasion, I was thinking about how I'm not making an Easter pie this year, and then I remembered that I already wrote something about Easter pie, years ago, in a private newsletter where I shared parenting stories with a circle of friends. So here's a version of that piece, which originally went out in 2018. If you're one of the dozen or so people who already read it, apologies for the rerun. 


A slice of Easter pie, golden on top and white on the sides, with crumbled sausage coming out at the bottom, sits on a white plate on a white table. Next to it, for some reason I can't remember, is a pair of opera glasses with a dark red body and gold-toned fittings.

Raising the Easter Pie

When I had gotten the fiadone into the oven, I did what my mother used to help us do when she made pie, when we were little. I laid out the pastry scraps in a flat blob on foil on a little pan, dusted the blob with cinnamon and sugar—plus a splash of the leftover egg wash, because it was there—and popped it into the toaster oven. I could have shown the kids how to do it, but I didn't want to get their hopes up for the cinnamon tart. This was not going to be my mom's piecrust. 

I had approached the fiadone project with dread, partly because of the basket cheese but mostly because it was a pie, and I have always left the pies to the experts. But we weren't going anywhere for Easter, and the Easter celebration would consist of whatever we did to make it seem like Easter. If there was going to be an Easter pie in it, it was going to be mine to make. 

A fiadone was a relatively late addition to my parents' Easter table—there for half my lifetime, say, rather than all of it. The recipe cards for it, which my brother sent me photos and a transcription of, bear a date of 1995. It was a deeper tradition, one from my father's childhood, but it was decades before he got around to serving it. Maybe he'd delayed for the same reason I had. Pastry was not his specialty, either. 

The recipe cards, on inspection, were less a recipe than a list of ingredients, with accompanying end notes in my mother's handwriting. The crust was simply a citation: "Use crust recipe from A. Boni," with "p. 211" inserted after that. "A. Boni" meant Italian Regional Cooking, by Ada Boni, published in 1969 and now out of print. I could picture exactly where it was on the revolving bookshelf back home, right off the dining room, 165 miles out of reach. I ordered a used copy online. 

The recipe on page 211, in the Naples-Campagna chapter, was for "Pizza Rustica," or "Country Cheese Pie." The entry for "fiadone" was on page 189, under Abruzzo-Molise, and described a sort of cheese calzone. Some of my father's antecedents were from Lanciano, in Abruzzo, and some were from Benevento, in Campagna, and at any rate, the language my father grew up with in South Philadelphia was regional and specific and pre-standardized, if not archaic. His fiadone was Ada Boni's pizza rustica: a cheese pie, well laden with meats, served warm or cold but better cold. 

Good Friday arrived, and it was time to act. The index cards called for basket cheese. What is basket cheese? It is the cheese for the Easter pie. I had no clear mental image of it. I had only encountered it baked in a piecrust, mingled with other cheeses and studded with bits of prosciutto and sausage. My sense was that it was one of those things like the cardoons in the Christmas soup: the principle was certain, but grocery store inventory was not. More Christmases you settled for escarole, some you had to use frozen spinach. 

Ada Boni, for her part, didn't mention basket cheese, just ricotta and mozzarella for the bulk of the filling. The internet seemed divided between basket cheese and ricotta. I scribbled out some approximate amounts of meats and cheeses on an index card of my own, put it in my pocket, and went to Fairway, straight to the cheese department.

I cased the shelves. There was no basket cheese. I circled around to the other dairy section, where they had the mass-market ricotta and the cottage cheese and the cream cheese. No luck. I asked the worker behind the cheese counter if they had any. No, he said, with enough polite regret to make it clear this was a thing he was used to people asking. We didn't get it this year.

If I wanted, I could be off the hook. I'd tried. Maybe next year I could go downtown to Di Palo's and see if they had what I needed to do it properly. I could ditch my empty shopping basket and walk away. 

Instead I grabbed a tub of good ricotta and a log of mozzarella. A modest chunk of provolone. Locatelli. Regular supermarket ricotta, just in case. Eggs, pepperoni, prosciutto. Loose sweet sausage meat from Citarella, next door. I dumped the better ricotta into a colander over a bowl in the fridge to drain it overnight, as at least one of the internet recipes had recommended. There would be no backing out.

Now it was Holy Saturday. I browned the loose sausage and studied Boni's crust recipe. It was just butter and flour and eggs, with a pinch of salt. Softened butter, worked in with the hands, not deep-chilled butter that would have to be expertly cut in with pastry tools. Rustica. I mashed the butter into the flour, then the salt and the eggs into that. It held together. 

While it rested, I cut up the deli meats with kitchen scissors and chopped or grated the more solid cheeses. All of that, stirred together in a bowl with the ricotta, was the filling. The oven heated up.

The clock said the crust had sat as long as it needed to. Working fast, so as not to think much, I cleared barely enough space on the already tiny counter, tore off two long pieces of parchment paper, and started rolling out half the lump of dough between them. The idea of rolling dough between parchment sheets came from a book of recipes for finicky cookies, and it was a life-changing discovery. The ability to roll out dough neatly and effectively is high craftsmanship, a skill built up with years of attention and effort, and I do not have it. I cheat. 

I rolled the dough reasonably flat, somewhat even, and not really very round at all. Then I lifted the whole assemblage of dough and parchment up with my hand under it, peeled off the top sheet of paper, and flipped it into a glass pie pan. Only one part of it tore as it went. I patched it with a stray scrap of dough, squashing it all back into one piece. Rustica!

The sausage meat lined the bottom, as Ada Boni had instructed, and the rest of the filling went in over it. My guesswork had produced exactly the right amount for the pie pan; I am good at meats and cheeses. I rolled out the rest of the dough, no more neatly or effectively than the first half, and flopped it on top. I tore off the trailing edges and squeezed together the seam between top and bottom. Then I stabbed the top all over with a fork, smeared some egg wash over it, and put the pie in to bake.

That left me with the scraps. Soon enough, they were in the toaster as a bonus pastry, and soon enough after that I could smell cinnamon from the living room, and the scrap pastry was done. I peeled up a bite of it. It was not Proustian but it was decent enough, in its rustic way. 

I bore it out to the living room and, bent on not overselling it, asked if anyone wanted some mediocre experimental pastry. My wife and older son took bites. My younger son, taking my pitch at face value, declined. He was six years old, then, and his opinions about food were fickle and annoying, weakly held but strongly expressed. Not too many days before, we'd had a blowup when he made gagging noises at the sight of pan-fried catfish, only to discover, once he returned to the table after the meltdown, that he could eat it just fine. 

Most of the time, in that phase, I didn't bother lobbying him about how something might be good. Our approach to the difficult eating years was to feed the kids lots of things and not make a big deal out of any of them in particular. As long as he ended up eating a balanced diet, it didn't seem worth chasing after his enthusiasm. 

In this case, though, I thought he deserved a real chance. I pressed him to try a bite of the scrap tart, and he reluctantly took it. Then he asked for another bite. Then he took possession of the foil and finished it off. 

The fiadone came out looking just like a fiadone. Easter morning, I sliced it up. It tasted like a fiadone. The crust was good enough for the job; the filling was rich and salty and correct. The older boy ate his first slice of Easter pie with appreciation, and asked for more. The younger took one bite and shook his head. More for the rest of us. He'd surely have different tastes next year.

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Charlton Heston with really big hair as Moses in The Ten Commandments

What Time Are The Ten Commandments Going to be On TV This Easter

ABC TELEVISION'S OVER-the-air broadcast of Cecil B. DeMille's immortal The Ten Commandments screens Saturday night at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, according to Microsoft Start's Remind Magazine. Here is a previously re-run piece considering this annual phenomenon by Joe MacLeod, Catholic Boy, found on one of Indignity's previous manifestations. Ignore all the broadcast info in that post, this year, 2024, The Ten Commandments runs on Saturday March 30, 7 p.m., Eastern Time, on ABC television. A god of gold!

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INDIGNITY MORNING PODCAST Episode 244: Indignity Morning Podcast No. 244: Bound in human skin.
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Easter candy: EASTER BUDDIES YUMMY CHOCOLATE CANDY bunny and chick, RUSSELL STOVER crosses, M&Ms FILLED EGGS large plastic eggs wrapped with images of the M&Ms mascots, RUSSELL STOVER easter bunnies in peanut butter and cookies & cream varieties, gold foil-wrapped LINDT easter bunnies, classic COTTONTAIL HOLLOW MILK CHOCOLATE bunnies, WORLD'S BEST PETER POPCORN TAILS popcorn balls, KATHY KAYE® COTTON CANDY POPCORN, classic PALMER MAKING CANDY FUN® PETER RABBIT HOLLOW MILK CHOCOLATE bunny, includes THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT BY BEATRIX POTTER

More consciousness at Instagram.

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A scale with a hand doing "thumbs up" gesture opposed by another hand also doing a "thumbs up" on the other side of the scale but weighing more even though they look the sameA scale with a hand doing "thumbs up" gesture opposed by another hand also doing a "thumbs up" on the other side of the scale but weighing more even though they look the same

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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS in aid of the assembly of sandwiches from New Presentation of Cooking with Timed Recipes, by Auguste Gay with the collaboration of Anne Page. Published in 1924, and now in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

For each sandwich
2 slices of buttered bread
1 hard boiled egg
1 tablespoon watercress, chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise sauce

Chop hard boiled egg and mix with the chopped watercress. Add the mayonnaise sauce and mix thoroughly. Spread on both slices of bread, put together and press lightly.

For each sandwich
2 slices of buttered bread
1/2 filet of marinated herring
1 slice of American cheese
1/2 hard boiled egg

Chop all ingredients together and spread on both slices of bread, put together and press lightly.

For each sandwich
2 slices of buttered bread
1 hard boiled egg
1 slice of ham
1 tablespoon raw spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise sauce

Chop all ingredients together and add the mayonnaise sauce. Spread on both slices of bread, put together and press lightly.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to 


The second printing of 19 FOLK TALES is now available for gift-giving and personal perusal! Sit in the strengthening sunshine with a breezy collection of stories, each of which is concise enough to read before the damp ground seeps through your blanket.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm DailyThe special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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